redroanchronicles: (farmersmarket-corn)
Friends, I come to you today as a neophyte, a humble student, a seeker of knowledge, a person who only recently learned to distinguish between a parsnip and a rutabaga.

There is much work to be done, as you can see.

Part of my Epic Quest for Awesomely Healthy Living (patent pending) is a re-tooling of my diet. To this end, I have tried repeatedly to whittle away at my definitions of "allowed" and "not allowed" sweets, and have finally been forced to conclude that, in order to control my sweet tooth -- which left to its own devices, would eventually destroy Tokyo -- I really need to have a hard and fast rule: no processed sugars. At all. Not even in my tea.

Since my tea was my less-delicious substitute for the delicious sugar-filled soy chai beverages that I decided weren't worth their price (my waistline and $5 a pop), it pains me to limit myself to no sugar in my tea. I am of the opinion that without sugar, tea tastes like warm water. But I am steadfast in my resolve! I am going to kick this thing! I am not going to eat those freaking sugars!

Anyway, I have only come here seeking knowledge (because they would not teach me aaaaall in colllllege). I hoped that you, the people of the Internet, might have recommendations for me of tea flavors or specific brands that, when brewed and consumed with no additional sugar-y deliciousness, actually taste like something. (Teas that taste good sweetened with honey are also allowable. Honey is good, I've just found that it tastes kind of awful in most of the teas I like.) I prefer the spicier teas like chai, ginger, cinnamon, peppermint and whatnot, over the fruity ones, but I'm willing to experiment. ([personal profile] malnpudl, you need not apply. Your favored tea could strip paint, and/or my esophagus. You are clearly made of sterner stuff than I.)

Also, I've been cooking. It would be fair to say that I have been cooking up a storm, in fact. Over the weekend I made chicken curry, parsnip soup and pannekaken with tasty improvised fillings. I felt like a for-real chef. Occasionally. (Except when I was sort of scorching the ginger honey carrots.) They were all delicious and pretty easy, but I have to say that the parsnip soup was my favorite; I think the chicken curry would've been more interesting if I'd been braver with the spices (and not afraid of killing Mal with the spiciness of said spices), but the parsnip soup was just really simple and wholesome and filling. It tasted like autumn.

I'm just curious, for those of you who do cook and who may find my attempts to do so perhaps simultaneously charming and horrifying, what advice would you give to someone who is just beginning to cook and is struggling with all the technique, planning, budgeting and organization that apparently goes into cooking one's own meals? What trick do you wish you'd known when you started? (For me, it is the peel-garlic-by-crushing-it-with-a-knife thing. Time-saver!) What gadget can you not live without? What ingredients do you consider both versatile and indispensable?
redroanchronicles: (farmersmarket-corn)
For a few months now, I've been on a bit of a health kick. And I don't mean that I've given up my Twinkie habit -- I mean that I've been changing my life, utterly and completely, into something better.

It all started with a confluence of events. I stepped on a scale and realized that what had been a bit of extra weight had become a weight of over 200 pounds. I needed new jeans and had to face the fact that the only way they were going on was if I bought up a size. I adopted a dog named Trudeau who strongly encourages frequent exercise by begging for walks (and rewards running with an immense, tongue-lolling, joyful stride that is uplifting just to watch). I bought a pair of really crazy-looking shoes -- more on those and my newfound status as a runner in another post later on -- which turned exercise from a chore into a momentary return to youth. I decided that I was tired of being tired, and I was sick of being depressed, and I wasn't going to let my life pass me by thinking about how I wish I looked, the things I wish I could do, the life I'd lead when I found the time for it.

I'd like that life now, please.

One of the most difficult parts of this transition for me has been changing my diet. I never thought it was that bad to begin with; I ate fast food maybe once every few months, tops, and usually only in moments of desperation for sustenance. I'd long since cut out soda, and for a couple years I'd been living with a general rule that if I picked up something off the supermarket shelf that listed any form of corn syrup as an ingredient, I'd put it back down again. But it wasn't really enough. I started logging my meals on SparkPeople and started looking what was really in the food I was eating: it most mostly a lot of calories and not a lot of nutrition. So I started being more careful, buying more produce, trying to teach myself to cook, and here's what I found: in the average neighborhood supermarket, there is hardly anything on those shelves that is good for you. (Michael Pollan, author of such fucking incredible books as The Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food, puts it even more simply: stick to the edges of the supermarket. Supermarkets put all of the fresh food -- meats, produce, bakeries -- on the outside edges of the store, closest to the loading docs, where it's easiest to rotate in new deliveries.) I've utterly confused and confounded myself with the array of fascinating and opposing ideas of what constitutes healthy eating, but for the most part I've just settled into Michael Pollan's simple advice for a healthy diet: "Eat food, not too much, mostly plants."

A big part of educating myself about food has also meant educating myself about food systems overall, about how we got into this mess and how we can get back out of it again. So in case you're also interested in these topics, I want to recommend a few video resources (I'll have some books to recommend later on):

Jamie Oliver's TED Prize wish: Teach Every Child About Food
Jamie Oliver (who I have been informed is in fact TV's The Naked Chef) gives an outstanding presentation as part of the TED Talks series about the relationship we have with food, and how we need to change it. You can watch the full presentation online at this link, or just watch the embedded video below (they're the same thing).



I was really struck by the video he shows of a classroom visit where children can't even identify fruits and vegetables -- and we're talking tomatoes here, not anything too exotic. It seems almost too incredible to be true, but having been one of those children (having been one of those children well into my mid-twenties) I can tell you that it is a fact. In fact, it's kind of still my reality. I tried to buy parsnips just a few days ago and walked away with rutabaga, and until you've been there you have no idea quite how horrible it is to realize that you're nearly 30 and you don't have the first idea what a parsnip looks like. Also, it's kind of humiliating when the checkout guy says, "Are these rutabagas?" and you're all, "Er, I think parsnips?" and he's all, "Uh. No. These aren't parsnips."

LOOK, I CAN'T RECOGNIZE A PARSNIP, OKAY? Maybe I should get a smartphone. I'll bet there's an app for that.

In any event, the filmed segments he shows are clips from his new show, Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution, which premieres March 26th on ABC. I'll definitely be tuning in.

We Feed the World

Years back I saw a film called We Feed the World. It's about the globalization of food, the ways in which our food systems have gone absolutely mad, and the brink that all of this is driving us to. This film is one of the most incredible documentaries I've ever seen; all my love to Food, Inc. and every other film on the subject, but We Feed the World is a film that has haunted me since the first time I watched it. There's an image early on in the film that's really stuck with me: a dump truck dumping a load of perfectly good bread -- harvested, baked, and then wasted -- while millions of people across the globe are undernourished or outright starving. This film will educate you not just about the global issues concerning food -- from GM crops to factory fishing to the damages of import/export foods -- but also about what exactly you're putting in your body.

You can watch the documentary in its entirety -- thereby completely blowing your mind -- for free.


Anywho, I'll be posting more about food and fitness and my crazy shoes and all that nonsense as time marches forward. I know there are some fantastic chefs and fitness nuts reading, so hopefully you'll all help me out. We don't want a repeat of the Parsnip Incident.

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redroanchronicles

August 2011

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